Through a blizzard and on to module two

Alex Martin
25 February 2013
Alex Martin is writing a series of blogs about studying part-time for an MBA in France. You can find his previous entries here.

‘Module 2 – Business Strategy’ was the second resident week at the European Institute of Purchasing Management (EIPM), and the first module with an exam.

This module started in mid-January after I downloaded and read 27 documents (392 pages in total) from the school’s online, distance learning platform in preparation. It took me approximately two weeks to read all the documents, while also thinking about the professor’s preliminary questions. This was my first lesson – thinking about the questions properly, making notes and then discovering I could re-use them in the lectures. After driving through Germany in a blizzard, I arrived in Geneva on Sunday evening at a student-colleague’s home, where I would be staying for a week of intensive learning. This was a great help and I was very lucky to avoid the €400 (£349) per week hotel costs. The terrible weather conditions, however, were not a great start. The module was based on 11 lectures delivered Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 6pm, with a three-hour exam on Saturday based on an unknown case study and requiring essay-style answers, which I will come on to later. We covered strategy tools and their use, such as Porter’s five forces, scenario planning and distinctive capabilities (there are so many more that I’ve not mentioned), and applied them to case studies on companies from various industries. It’s very interesting to learn with colleagues by breaking into workshops allowing the chance for everyone to shine in smaller group numbers and then presenting to the class. For other topics, such as mergers and acquisitions, some of us took the ‘hot seat’, speaking about our experiences whether it was within an acquiring company or in a company being acquired and taking questions from the class. Another exciting and different take on a case study was to act as CEO of the mentioned company and announce your strategy to ‘analysts’ in a Q&A, which presented some rather heated moments in differences of opinions. In the evenings, I socialised with my fellow students, whether eating at restaurants or staying late at school to run through the recently taught material. Whatever we did, the days were tiring and I slept very well. Overall, I learned how to perform, use and understand: industry analysis; strategic core competencies; generic strategies; strategy and organisation; internationalisation; and ‘build, borrow or buy’, among other topics. This was then tested in the exam on Saturday morning - another important test was time management – and we had three hours to demonstrate our understanding of these techniques, which tools to use and when, and the different cultures that affect strategy. Exam results are due in four weeks, so keep your fingers crossed for me. I arrived home in Germany on Saturday afternoon and had an early night. I now have an assignment to write – an analysis of my industry. I have six weeks to complete it, which overlaps with module three quite nicely. So, after a week of studying, it’s back to the day job. ☛ Alex Martin is IT business service principal consultant at SAP. He welcomes comments and LinkedIn connections
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